Moral Landscapes

Living the life that is good for one to live

The TREMENDOUS Benefits of Doing What is Normal: Breastfeeding

In accordance with the World Health Organization's recommendations, Gossip Girl's Kelly Rutherford breastfed for over two years! Prolonged breastfeeding provides a baseline of health effects for mom and baby alike. Read More

What about them?

What about when some mothers are just not able to get the baby to "latch" or when the child has acid reflux and other GI problems that require him/her to go on sensitive formula? I have a relative who had twins last year and another baby just a couple weeks ago. All three of her babies have sensitive stomachs and reflux issues for which the doctor advised her to put them on sensitive formula. As soon as she quit trying to get them to take breast milk and started giving them the sensitive formula, each of the babies became much calmer. She feels so guilty about depriving them of breast milk but feels she has no other choice because they simply cannot digest her milk. Is breast feeding sometimes overemphasized, especially in situations like this?

doctor ignorance

Sounds like doctor ignorance. There are ways to help the baby latch on and mechanisms that can help. If the baby is having indigestion it is because of the mother's diet, and not the fault of breastmilk per se. Mothers might have to restrict what they eat (e.g., avoiding some spices) when their infants are young and sensitive. We use to know this--why have we become so ignorant? I think it is because most doctors convey and most people believe that formula is a good replacement for breast milk. It is not.

Most formula is based on cow mother's milk--why would anyone thing that is easier to digest? It has the wrong formulation of proteins and sugars for humans and creates digestion problems on its own. Babies are designed to profit from their own mother's milk, not the milk of another species.

For more comparisons of breastfeeding and formula feeding see our video that we will put up today in the next blog.

intergenerational harms of artificial feeding

Mothers who now try to breastfeed were themselves rarely completely (ie, solely from birth and for 6 months) breastfed. Many sensitise their babies in utero to allergens in their diet (especially cows milk). These allergens can also be in the mother's milk and cause reactions. Those reactions include reflux, as the baby's body tries to reject damaging food, and also gut distress due to lactose intolerance (often described as sensitive stomachs!!).

When allergens -or viruses or bacteria or parasites or stress- damage the infant gut, the baby loses lactase (the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar in milk) and so becomes lactose intolerant, as bacteria ferment the sugar, causing gas and discomfort. Change the mother's diet, take her off foods that are damaging the gut, and the symptoms disappear, and baby goes on developing normally on breastmilk. Change the baby's diet, take him off breastmilk, and the symptoms of lactose intolerance abate (if on a lactose-free formula) BUT DAMAGE KEEPS ON BEING DONE by the allergens. Those babies made be calmer initially, but 2-4 weeks down the track you can expect to see for example, patches of rough skin as eczema starts, and baby is at risk for all the harms Darcia has rightly pointed out, and many more. Every formula-fed child has been robbed of potential health and wellbeing.

The amount of lactase (enzyme) a person has varies. the amount of lactose (sugar) a baby gets varies. Even non-allergic moms can have temporarily lactose-overloaded babies if they have lots of milk. This Is easily managed by any breastfeeding counsellor and simply involves changing feeding patterns for a time, often 24-48 hours and it's sorted..Babies can quickly be more comfortable without being taken off the breast.

Lactose intolerance is rarely a diagnosis, always a SYMPTOM of something damaging the gut. Formula does it often. Formula may have done it to the breastfeeding mother, or her mother before her. And we all begin in our grandmother's womb.

The companies know perfectly well that each generation of formula they produce causes harms, which only become obvious after enough babies have been experimented on. Companies try to keep ahead by modifying the composition of their products to deal with the latest problems to emerge. So-called sensitive formulas still cause reactions -intractable diarrhea in some children - they're just not usually so obvious as the last generation's problems. For 100 years each new range has been marketed as gentle and sensitive and caring and perfect- and replaced by the next range within about 30 years.

what happened to the mother matters!

Thank you for your deep knowledge on this, Maureen. Is there a website that lists the options for moms whose babies are reacting to breastmilk (since health professionals may not know and moms may not have access to lactation consultants)? We need to figure out ways to stop this intergenerational snowballing effect.

website for breastfeeding mums with reactive babies

Good question. I'll see what I can find. There's lots of good information here and there, and if anyone can get hold of a secondhand copy of my first book, Food for Thought: a parent's guide to food intolerance (I love Abebooks) there's a lot in there that's useful even after all these years. But a site that walks mothers through what to do... I teach this to health professionals all the time, so I guess I should put it on paper and find a website to host it. I'll get back to this after the upcoming NZLCA conference where I'm speaking on -guess what- allergy and babies, among other things.

Don't be discouraged by negative reactions and misunderstanding of what you're trying to say. A hundred years of marketing has created such delusions of formula safety that anyone who speaks truthfully about infant formula must be strong enough to deal with that. The reactions are strong because everyone really does care about babies, and the idea that we have done such harm for so long is really hard to cope with. Yes, every mum wants the best, and does her best; but so did all those mums who put babies into cars unrestrained, or lay their babies down to sleep on their tummies, or drank alcohol in pregnancy, or smoked-sometimes with doctors' blessing for up to 10 a day. And babies died or were injured. Mums can be misled and misinformed. They have no reason to feel guilty if they acted in ignorance. Nor can anyone make any other person feel guilty: guilt comes from within, from an awareness that we did wrong, or less well than we might have. Mothers have good reason to feel angry, but shouldn't shoot the messenger. Regret and anger are not guilt, and will create change.

I am so intrigued with the

I am so intrigued with the idea of sensitisation down generations and would like to discuss/present it at staff training. Is there any copyright limitatios in presenting any of your data other than acknowledging you as the source?

please spread the word!

Hi, Pam,

Feel free to spread the word about these things. Please just cite the blog post and authors (co-authors too if there are any). Let me know if you need anything else.


Passionate about breastfeeding

Dear Anonymous,
I wanted to share my story with you so, you can relay this to others mom or your relative. I too had issues with my 1st child latching on and when I went for help the Dr. said just to give the baby a bottle and formula and stop hassling with breastfeeding! I listened but now know that was pure Doctor ignorance!! There are devices a Mom can use for those issues; that work! I now have a 2nd child (10 years later) and was determined to BF no matter what issues I may face. Boy, did I encounter some obstacles but, it was nothing I couldn't overcome. My daughter was diagnosed with a sensitive stomach, reflux and GERD. She cried and cried. I felt helpless as a mom so, when I went to my pediatrician he recommended a special formula I told him that was not an option; that nothing could be more special than MY MILK :)! I asked him please tell me another option he said I could try changing my diet first by eliminating dairy products and spices... I did and a week later she was doing much better. I was glad that I had the 2nd option and I wish that your relatives Dr. would have given her other options. In fact, when I consulted with a Lactation specialist she said it is better for me to continue to BF becuase she had such a sensitive stomach that most formulas would make her worse and a mothers milk is the best not artificial milk! Now she is 19 months old and I will continue to feed her when she is ready to stop.

"Is breast feeding sometimes overemphasized, especially in situations like this?" As far as that statement, I believe BF is underemphasized and we need more education, awareness, and community support! BF is a beautiful gift that as a Mother we have to give our of the best gifts I will ever give my daughter was BF her. It still pains me that I didn’t BF my first but, she is okay; I just wish it was different, better!

So, please ask other moms to contact their local resources for a second opinion and find a support group where they can gain empowerment from other MOMS on Breastfeeding!

I hope I was able to shed a different light on the matter,

personal insight and experience is key

Thank you, Monica, for your heartfelt and inspirational comment. This is just the kind of information that is needed for all moms who face ignorant medical personnel. Moms can turn to other moms for help. Thank you, thank you!

Thank you, Dr. Narvaez and

Thank you, Dr. Narvaez and Monica. I feel that I understand the importance of breast feeding myself, but my relative (my cousin) and her husband are very influenced by the modern, medical industrial approach of quick fixes and band-aids for health problems. In the last few days her twins developed fevers and rashes. I went to the doctor's office with her yesterday and the doctor diagnosed it as Rosiola, a viral rash that is highly infectious. Her doctor and other doctors in our family told her that this is a very common viral infection and is caught through fecal oral contact and airborne droplets. I was thinking, if it's so common how come none of the babies I know of have/had it? And it did occur to me that all of the babies I was thinking of were/are breast fed.

She felt very guilty about stopping BFing with the twins last year and now with her newborn, after some post-surgery complications for herself, she's already gone 2 and a 1/2 weeks with him on the sensitive formula. This time she and her husband didn't think twice about switching out the baby onto the formula. I really want to tell her about the importance of breast feeding but I feel I may be overstepping my boundaries in doing so.

My fiance and I, however, feel very differently about our future options for when we have kids. Like Monica, we don't see formula as an option. I know it can be very difficult, as it has been for my cousin and her husband. But after reading these posts, we were just discussing how there has to be a reason for nature providing us with this abundant source of nutrition for a child and that it would be wrong-headed for us to ignore its benefits. Reading this has convinced us. Thank you again.


I find this article frustrating. You are committing the very same fallacy about formula feeding that you claim you wish to see stopped.

Breastfeeding is NORMAL. It is formula feeding which carries risks. Until you change your language, you will not see society change.

There are no 'benefits' to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is physiologically normal for both the mother and the child. You have bought into a marketing ploy by formula companies that formula is normal, convenient and perfectly fine and that breastfeeding is just a little more icing on the cake. You are taking the 'good, better, best' approach which places formula in the 'better' category.

Watch your language. This article shouldn't be about benefits, as that confers that the alternative is an acceptable option. This article, if you are truly pro-breastfeeding, should be reversed to show the risks of formula. It stands in stark contrast to the other articles in the series that promote breastfeeding as normal and should be accepted as the societal norm. An article with the implication that formula is acceptable will never promote breastfeeding appropriately.

Read Watch Your Language by Diane Wessinger.

multiple methods

You are right, this is more along the lines of "Breast is best" but we wanted to present the information this week both ways. We are testing which works better with high school students and adults in the next couple of months. We got criticized by breastfeeding advocates for presenting 'formula is risky' in other posts!

Analogous to other milk?

I'm curious about your opinion, Dr. Narvaez, on raw cow or goat milk for adult and child human consumption.

As you mention in the post, raw human milk is the go-to choice for feeding infants because of the perfect combination of fats, carbs, proteins and water. It contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

But, relevant to my question, it is *also* chock-full of enzymes, antibodies, and probiotics that can inhibit pathogen growth. These are vital components in the milk that enhance digestability, prevent infections, and remove or diminish allergies.

All of these are lost in pasteurization, as several studies show (a few studies listed below). In fact, in the first paper the authors show that even when E. coli bacteria are added to milk, the untreated (raw) milk is twice as good at killing the E. coli than high temperature pasteurization (75 degrees Celsius).**

So, breast milk from the mother is better than milk from milk banks (because these banks pasteurize the donated milk), and breast milk is better than formula. I think we agree to this point.

Keeping this in mind, is it a fair analogy to say that for the same reason that untreated (raw) breast milk is better for infants and toddlers than pasteurized breast milk, untreated (raw) cow and goat's milk is better than pasteurized cow and goat's milk?

Let me say that I know cows and goats are not humans. But most people recognize the health benefits of dairy products, including the Michele Obama and the USDA with its new Food Plate initiative. It may not have the perfect composition of fats and proteins for growing infants, but adults can still benefit from animal milk as part of their diet. However, these animals' milk lose their enzymes, antibodies, and probiotics during pasteurization just like human milk.

So I see this analogous case and I wonder, shouldn't raw animal milk be better for humans than pasteurized animal milk?

Please note: I do not advocate drinking milk from sick cows, cows with rBGH, or milk from farms with unsanitary conditions. I only think that raw milk from healthy cows living in sanitary conditions with all the necessary safety precautions is a (much) healthier alternative than pasteurized milk.

Finally, I find it ironic that the probiotic foods that health-conscious consumers and companies are advocating (like yogurt) first remove the probiotics via pasteurization (while leaving dead bacteria in the product) then artificially add (some) probiotics back in for health - all the while charging a hefty premium for something that is already in milk naturally.

Thanks for your response - and more importantly, thanks for these wonderful articles illustrating not only why breast milk is so much better than formula, but also advocating health-conscious decisions for ourselves and our children.

Some studies:
Silvestre, D., et al. "Effect of Pasteurization on the Bactericidal Capacity of Human Milk"

Tully, D., et al. "Donor Milk: What’s in It and What’s Not"

Koenig, A., et al. "Immunologic Factors in Human Milk: The Effects of Gestational Age and Pasteurization"

**[Interesting side note: most pasteurization today uses ultra-high temperature that are even worse at fending off bacteria, if you extrapolate the data.)

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Darcia Narvaez is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Executive Editor of the Journal of Moral Education.


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